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Engaging the World: The ‘Fascinating Story’ of Hamas’s Political Evolution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 7:23am in

On February 4, representatives from the Palestinian Movement, Hamas, visited Moscow to inform the Russian government of the latest development on the unity talks between the Islamic Movement and its Palestinian counterparts, especially Fatah.

This was not the first time that Hamas’s officials traveled to Moscow on similar missions. In fact, Moscow continues to represent an important political breathing space for Hamas, which has been isolated by Israel’s Western benefactors. Involved in this isolation are also several Arab governments which, undoubtedly, have done very little to break the Israeli siege on Gaza.

The Russia-Hamas closeness is already paying dividends. On February 17, shipments of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, have made it to Gaza via Israel, a testament to that growing rapport.

While Russia alone cannot affect a complete paradigm shift in the case of Palestine, Hamas feels that a Russian alternative to the blind and conditional American support for Israel is possible, if not urgent.

Recently, we interviewed Dr. Daud Abdullah, the author of ‘Engaging the World: The Making of Hamas’s Foreign Policy’, and Mr. Na’eem Jeenah, Director of the Afro-Middle East Center in Johannesburg, which published Dr. Abdullah’s book.

Abdullah’s volume on Hamas is a must-read, as it offers a unique take on Hamas, liberating the discussion on the Movement from the confines of the reductionist Western media’s perception of Hamas as terrorist – and of the counterclaims, as well. In this book, Hamas is viewed as a political actor, whose armed resistance is only a component in a complex and far-reaching strategy.

 

Why Russia?

As Moscow continues to cement its presence in the region by offering itself as a political partner and, compared with the US, a more balanced mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, Hamas sees the developing Russian role as a rare opportunity to break away from the US-Israel imposed isolation.

“Russia was a member of the Quartet that was set up in 2003 but, of course, as a member of the (United Nations) Security Council, it has always had an ability to inform the discourse on Palestine,” Abdullah said, adding that in light of “the gradual demise of American influence, Russia realized that there was an emerging vacuum in the region, particularly after the (Arab) uprisings.”

“With regard to Hamas and Russia the relationship took off after the (Palestinian) elections in 2006 but it was not Hamas’s initiative, it was (Russian President Vladimir) Putin who, in a press conference in Madrid after the election, said that he would be willing to host Hamas’s leadership in Moscow. Because Russia is looking for a place in the region.”

Hamas’s willingness to engage with the Russians has more than one reason, chief among them is the fact that Moscow, unlike the US, refused to abide by Israel’s portrayal of the Movement. “The fundamental difference between Russia and America and China … is that the Russians and the Chinese do not recognize Hamas as a ‘terrorist organization’; they have never done so, unlike the Americans, and so it made it easy for them to engage openly with Hamas,” Abdullah said.

 

On Hamas’s ‘Strategic Balance’

In his book, Abdullah writes about the 1993 Oslo Accords, which represented a watershed moment, not only for Hamas but also for the entire Palestinian liberation struggle. The shift towards a US-led ‘peace process’ compelled Hamas to maintain a delicate balance “between strategic objectives and tactical flexibility.”

Abdullah wrote,

Hamas sees foreign relations as an integral and important part of its political ideology and liberation strategy. Soon after the Movement emerged, foreign policies were developed to help its leaders and members navigate this tension between idealism and realism. This pragmatism is evident in the fact that Hamas was able to establish relations with the regimes of Muammar Gaddhafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, both of whom were fiercely opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The Making of Hamas's Foreign PolicyIn our interview, Abdullah elaborated:

From the very beginning, Hamas adopted certain principles in respect to its international relations and, later on, in the formation of a foreign policy. Among these, there is a question of maintaining its independence of decision-making; non-alignment in conflicting blocks, avoidance of interference in the affairs of other states.”

Mr. Jeenah, an accomplished writer himself, also spoke of the “delicate balance.”

“It is a delicate balance, and a difficult one to maintain because, at this stage, when movements are regarded and regard themselves as liberation movements, they need to have higher moral and ethical standards than, for example, governments,” Jeenah said.

For some reason, we expect that governments have to make difficult choices but, with liberation movements, we don’t, because they are all about idealism and creating an ideal society, etc.”

Jeenah uses the South Africa anti-apartheid struggle which, in many ways, is comparable to the Palestinian quest for freedom, to illustrate his point:

When the liberation movement in South Africa was exiled, they took a similar kind of position. While some of them might have had a particular allegiance to the Soviet Union or to China, some of them also had strong operations in European countries, which they regarded as part of the bigger empire. Nevertheless, they had the freedom to operate there. Some of them operated in other African countries where there were dictatorships and they got protection from those states.”

 

Hamas and the Question of National Unity

In his book, which promises to be an essential read on the subject, Abdullah lists six principles that guide Hamas’s political agenda. One of these guiding principles is the “search for common ground.”

In addressing the question of Palestinian factionalism, we contended that, while Fatah has failed at creating a common, nominally democratic platform for Palestinians to interact politically, Hamas cannot be entirely blameless. If that is, indeed, the case, can one then make the assertion that Hamas has succeeded in its search for the elusive common ground?

Abdullah answers:

Let me begin with what happened after the elections in 2006. Although Hamas won convincingly and they could have formed a government, they decided to opt for a government of national unity. They offered to (Palestinian Authority President) Mahmoud Abbas and to (his party) Fatah to come into a government of national unity. They didn’t want to govern by themselves. And that, to me, is emblematic of their vision, their commitment to national unity.”

But the question of national unity, however coveted and urgently required, is not just controlled by Palestinians.

“The PLO is the one that signed the Oslo Accords,” Abdullah said, “and I think this is one of Hamas’s weaknesses: as much as it wants national unity and a reform of the PLO, the fact of the matter is Israel and the West will not allow Hamas to enter into the PLO easily, because this would be the end of Oslo.”

 

On Elections under Military Occupation

On January 15, Abbas announced an official decree to hold Palestinian elections, first presidential, then legislative, then elections within the PLO’s Palestine National Council (PNC), which has historically served as a Palestinian parliament in exile. The first phase of these elections is scheduled for May 22.

But will this solve the endemic problem of Palestinian political representation? Moreover, is this the proper historical evolution of national liberation movements – democracy under military occupation, followed by liberation, instead of the other way around?

Jeenah spoke of this dichotomy: “On the one hand, elections are an opportunity for Palestinians to express their choices. On the other hand, what is the election really? We are not talking about a democratic election for the State, but for a Bantustan authority, at greater restraints than the South African authority.”

Moreover, the Israeli “occupying power will not make the mistake it did the last time. It will not allow such freedom (because of which) Hamas (had) won the elections. I don’t think Israel is going to allow it now.”

Yet there is a silver lining in this unpromising scenario. According to Jeenah, “I think the only difference this election could make is allowing some kind of reconciliation between Gaza and the West Bank.”

 

Hamas, the ICC and War Crimes

Then, there is the urgent question of the anticipated war crime investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Yet, when the ICC agreed to consider allegations of war crimes in Palestine, chances are not only alleged Israeli war criminals are expected to be investigated, but the probe could potentially consider the questioning of Palestinians, as well. Should not this concern Hamas in the least?

In the Israeli wars on Gaza in 2008, 2012, and 2014, Hamas, along with other armed groups had no other option but to “defend the civilian population,” Abdullah said, pointing out that the “overriding concept” is that the Movement “believes in the principle of international law.”

If Hamas “can restore the rights of the Palestinian people through legal channels, then it will be much easier for the Movement, rather than having to opt for the armed struggle,” Abdullah asserted.

 

Understanding Hamas

Undoubtedly, it is crucial to understand Hamas, not only as part of the Palestine-related academic discourse, but in the everyday political discourse concerning Palestine; in fact, the entire region. Abdullah’s book is itself critical to this understanding.

Jeenah argued that Abdullah’s book is not necessarily an “introductory text to the Hamas Movement. It has a particular focus, which is the development of Hamas’s foreign policy. The importance of that, in general, is firstly that there isn’t a text that deals specifically with Hamas’s foreign policy. What this book does is present Hamas as a real political actor.”

The evolution of Hamas’s political discourse and behavior since its inception, according to Jeenah, is a “fascinating” one.

Many agree. Commenting on the book, leading Israeli historian, Professor Ilan Pappé, wrote,

“This book challenges successfully the common misrepresentation of Hamas in the West. It is a must-read for anyone engaged with the Palestine issue and interested in an honest introduction to this important Palestinian Movement.”

[Dr. Daud Abdullah’s book, Engaging the World: The Making of Hamas’s Foreign Policy, is available here.]

Feature photo | Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, waves during a rally marking the 31st anniversary of the founding of Hamas, in Gaza city. Khalil Hamra | AP

Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the Managing Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appear in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Engaging the World: The ‘Fascinating Story’ of Hamas’s Political Evolution appeared first on MintPress News.

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.